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Should You Really Write in the WordPress Editor?

Earlier this week, my friend Justin Ferriman wrote a great post called Matt’s Page Builder, where he talks about the block editor trying to be two things: a place to write, and a page builder…and it’s more like the latter.

I’m in agreement. WordPress has considerably shifted from a simple blogging platform. Matt himself has said he wants it to be the, “operating system of the web,” which means a richer feature set, especially around creating and laying out content…but not necessarily writing.

But I’d argue that the WordPress editor has never really been the best place to write.

Never the Ideal Place to Write

The WordPress editor perhaps had a small window where it was a good place for people to write, after 3.6 was released. That was a time where the classic editor had auto saving and shortly after, browser backups with local storage.

It was at this point that you could reasonably write long-form pieces without fear of losing your work due to some browser or internet error.

But even working in the classic editor could be cumbersome. Adding images wasn’t the easiest, and doing anything more than simple text was tough1.

There were plugins, like Barley, that attempted to make this better (and did a pretty good job at it).

But really, if you want to write, you should use a writing app.

But I Use the Editor and It’s Fine

I know that will probably rub a lot of people the wrong way. People who’ve formed habits writing in the editor because it’s good enough.

And maybe for quick posts, that’s fine for you. But there are lots of reasons you should write somewhere and then send it to WordPress.

Why You Should Use a Separate Writing App

The first reason is the same reason Matt decided that full screen mode should be the default in the block editor: writing apps are fully focused on writing.

Actual Distraction Free Writing

There are no distractions, lots of keyboard shortcuts so you never have to take your hands off the keyboard, and most support some shorthand formatting like markdown2.

You’re also not distracted by other tabs and browser chrome. Writing apps are a blank canvas for you to compose your words. You can easily customize the fonts and colors to use work what’s best for you, and there aren’t a bevy of panels and options to work with.

It’s just you and your cursor.

Local Backups

Perhaps the biggest benefit of using a writing app over WordPress is local backups. Using a writing app means you can write without an internet connection. And if you lose your internet connection, the fear that you may have lost work won’t wash over you in a cold sweat3.

The strongest argument for writing apps? Local backups, and writing without an internet connection. Click To Tweet

On top of all of your posts living in the WordPress database, they’ll also live on your local machine…and in the case of iOS writing apps, iCloud too.

Organize Your Way

Everyone’s brains work differently, and sometimes just having categories and tags won’t cut it.

A writing app allows you to organize the way that works best for you. Click To Tweet

In Ulysses (my writing app of choice), I have folders, tags (or keywords), and filters.

I’ve written blog posts, video scripts, full courses, and even books using Ulysses, because I can organize in a way that works with my brain.

As an added bonus, most writing apps will have much better search functionality, making it easier to find what you’re looking for without a premium plugin.

Write Once, Publish Everywhere

Finally, when you’re writing in WordPress, you’re basically just writing for WordPress. Yes, you can get plugins and connect RSS feeds and yada yada.

Write once publish everywhere is a promise better delivered in a writing app. Click To Tweet

But when you’re working with plain text, or markdown, you can write in a neutral format and then ship it off to whatever platform or file you’d like.

Publish to WordPress, Ghost, Medium, or export as a Word Doc, PDF, or plain text file.

Good Writing Apps for WordPress

The best part about using separate writing app is there are a wealth of them to choose from, depending on your operating system and preferences.

My personal favorite is Ulysses. It’s easy to use when you’re just getting started, and powerful enough to do basically anything I want it to do. It also has native WordPress integration. And now, you can even update published posts right from Ulysses! So good.

Drafts is another good app, though you’ll need an extension to publish to WordPress. Drafts is fully focused on quick capture – so if you have ideas you want to jot down quickly and flesh out later, it’s a good app to check out.

The most integrated solution I’ve see (also for Mac) is MarsEdit. This will connect to your WordPress site and pull all of the posts in. It’s the closest thing I’ve seen to a native writing app for WordPress. It works well…but I’ve run into some issues with security that have prevented me from publishing.

If you’re looking for something cross platform, check out IA Writer. This is available for Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android, and has native WordPress export as well.

Where do you write? Let me know in the comments!

  1. Which you know, was the whole point of the Gutenberg project. ?
  2. To be fair, the block editor supports markdown and some great keyboard shortcuts. But I find myself reaching for the mouse a lot more there than I do in my writing app. ?
  3. Come on. You know you’ve felt it. ?

4 Comments

  1. Completely agree! I also use Ulysses for writing all of my blog posts. I really like the Block Editor for building and designing websites. But it’s much more annoying for just casual blogging/writing. Thankfully we have options.

  2. I can see the reasons someone would choose to use a separate editor, especially if the content is going to be distributed in multiple places, but I still don’t get what’s so objectionable about writing in the WP editor, and in particular, why writing in the block editor should seem clunkier than writing in the classic editor. In a lot of ways, writing in the block editor is easier than writing in Word. You can move paragraphs up and down, group things together, and include non-text elements. All you have to do is type and hit RETURN, with the occasional / when you want to insert a heading or other block.

    If you want to use Markdown to write posts in the editor, you can enable it with plugins like Editorskit, Jetpack, and WP Githuber MD. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use a separate text editor if that works for you, just that it really is pretty easy to just write in the block editor.

  3. I agree 100%
    The classic editor was an “OK” esperience, others were much better (medium, linkedin, ghost!) but still very usable.
    the gutemberg thing, while trying to copy the above mentioned app, is a mess. my workflow is like 30% slower, and i ve been using it for almost a year now. it s simply not done for long content writers.

  4. The “Where to write?” problem has long been an issue. Was disappointed that your article was so Mac-centric with the app recommendations though. There are good places to write on the web. One great place is Simplenote, which was acquired by Automattic a few years back. Totally platform-agnostic with instant saving. It is often my go-to because I can start on my phone, switch to the laptop and finish at a public terminal.

    I do mourn the loss of writing directly in WordPress though. The classic editor, with distraction-free activated, is still a good place to write if you can forgo Gutenberg.

    I also solved the problem for myself and put firstdraft.ink online a few years back. It’s just a few lines of javascript, with instant local browser saving. Nothing fancy, like note organization, just a single text document to copy-paste someplace else, and the design interface is subjective just for me. I built it for myself, and my middle-aged eyes. I’ve shared it a few times over the years and I’ve found that others started using it too. The whole thing was done to solve the where-to-write problem.

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